The Houston Dynamo hope to finish out the year with a win over the Vancouver Whitecaps after failing to make the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs. The Dynamo were eliminated from playoff contention following their 1-1 draw to the Seattle Sounders and hope to look to some of their younger players in this game to make early evaluations going into next season.
Against the Sounders, the Dynamo largely controlled the chances and flow of play, but struggled pushing the ball into dangerous areas of the field. Ricardo Clark was able to find the back of the net with a brilliant effort beyond the 18 yard box, but Obafemi Martins provided the spoiling equalizing goal in the Dynamo's last home appearance of the year.
In the previous match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Dynamo were able to win convincingly 2-0 at home behind a 1st half Ricardo Clark goal and a late insurance goal from Raul Rodriguez over the visitors who went down to 9 men following red cards to Kendall Watson and Matias Laba.
In our preview of the match we discussed Owen Coyle looking to a few players he hasn't seen much of in regular season action including Erick Torres (Cubo), but we wanted a Vancouver perspective on the upcoming fixture so we spoke with Jon Szekeres of Eighty Six Forever to understand a bit more about the motivations moving into this match.
Dynamo Theory: The Dynamo and the Whitecaps will enter the final game of the regular season with very different motivations. The Dynamo, now (finally) mathematically eliminated from playoff contention want to end the season on a bright note while the Whitecaps will want the full 3 points to hopefully earn the #2 playoff seed and avoid an elimination game at home. What will Carl Robinson's tactics be for the final regular season game? Push for goals, sit back to avoid mistakes, or rely on what's gotten the team this far?
Eighty Six Forever: The Whitecaps are currently in a stretch of absolutely horrible luck. They've been battling injuries to key players, including almost their entire attacking midfield. Pedro Morales, Mauro Rosales, Nicolas Mezquida and Cristian Techera have all battled injury lately, and are question marks heading into the contest. I imagine Robinson's first priority will be making sure he has as many healthy players as possible heading into the post-season. With that being said, a home playoff date would be an obvious advantage for the Whitecaps, and Robinson will try and pursue that to the best of his ability. If his big dogs are ready for battle, he'll use them, but if they are still feeling banged up, expect to see youth and depth options making their way into the starting 11 instead.
DT: It is fair to say the Dynamo shocked the Whitecaps in our last meeting at BBVA Compass Stadium this past August. Since then the Whitecaps hit a bit of a rough patch winning just 1 in their last 6. What's led to some of these results? Is it poor road form, injuries to personnel, or just things not clicking?
86F: Injuries, injuries, injuries, and a lack of a true striker up top. Octavio Rivero looked like he might be the answer to the 'Caps woes early this season, but he's come back to Earth and cannot be relied upon as a consistent goal scorer. That might change next season if the Whitecaps can get a Healthy, 100% Pedro Morales to get some extended time with him, but right now it's an area of concern. Kekuta Manneh hasn't taken the expected next step he was supposed to, and Darren Mattocks continues to look like nothing more than a bench option, not a future prolific goal scorer.
DT: The Whitecaps will make it to the playoffs in back-to-back years and will finish with more points than they have any other year in MLS. How excited are the fans for the playoffs and what's the atmosphere like in Vancouver?
86F: Believe it or not, with Toronto Blue Jays fever gripping the nation, the Vancouver Canucks back in action, and a recent slide by the Whitecaps, the atmosphere is not quite as exciting as it should be. The Whitecaps have failed to score a goal in their last three outings, and many of the star players have been battling injury. While the diehard supporters that fill BC Place every match are always going to be excited, the casual fan probably isn't paying as much attention as they should. If the 'Caps finish the season on a strong note, I think that will change. However, it may take something more dramatic, perhaps like a post-season victory, to really get the full attention of the Vancouver sports scene.
Projected Lineup: Ousted, Beitashour, Waston, Kah, Harvey, Laba, Koffie, Rosales, Mezquida, Techera, Rivero
For my answers to Jon's excellent questions hit them up at Eighty Six Forever!